“Only the ABC would have a program that criticises itself,” says Gaven Morris.
But that’s just what a public broadcaster should be doing, according to the ABC News boss.
“We should be able to analyse ourselves just as much as we choose to analyse others. So while that puts noses out of joint from time to time, I think that’s a real strength to the ABC.”
But could Media Watch also offer a longer-form show on ABC News channel, including with a weekly interview? After all, today there is much media to consume than when the show first launched in 1989.
“I frankly don’t disagree with that”
“I frankly don’t disagree with that,” Morris tells TV Tonight. “Many times where that conversation has come up I’ve thought a longer version of Media Watch could be something that the ABC should think about. But because it’s not in my team we’ve never really gone there.
“But I don’t disagree with that observation.”
Media Watch has always operated separately within ABC, falling outside of Morris’ news domain so that it can criticise broadcaster where necessary.
Sometimes that has led to friction within the Ultimo building.
“We get a bit annoyed with it, sometimes.”
“We have been a target of Media Watch just as much as many other news outlets have. We get a bit annoyed with it, sometimes. Sometimes they take shots at us, like all the other media do, that we think aren’t necessarily fair and square. But that’s their job,” Morris admits.
“Their job is to analyse and critique what goes on in the news business and we’re just as often a target of that as anybody else.
“I think the only tension that exists between ABC News across the board and Media Watch is the fact that we don’t like being observed and criticised.”
In 2012 TV Tonight asked then-host Jonathan Holmes if it was time for an extended edition, but he felt the current length ensured the show packed a punch.
“It would lose its personal flavour and I doubt you’d actually cover all that much more ground,” he replied.
“There would be weeks where you would be scratching the barrel.”
“I’m not saying that a bit longer wouldn’t be nice, but I think 20 minutes is about as far as you could go with that format. And obviously 20 minutes is not particularly useful time for the schedule. Even at 20 there would be weeks where you would be scratching the barrel.”
Media Watch Executive Producer Tim Latham tells TV Tonight, “We’re often running 16-17 mins now and as things stand, a longer Media Watch is evolving.
“When I started in 2014 the show was running around 12 mins and that was far too brief.”
“The key issue for us is to maintain pace and entertainment”
“The key issue for us is to maintain pace and entertainment without the program dragging,” he said.
“This is more important than a set duration.”
Media Watch also screens a separate Media Bytes pitched to a younger, online audience every Thursday.